I’m gradually getting my details uploaded to this website at the moment, though it might be a few weeks until everything is up and running 100%. In the meantime, I just wanted to draw people’s attention to a couple of interesting programs coming up at the BFI Southbank in London over the next month or two. I’ve had nothing to do with either of them, though both fall within my spheres of interest.
The first is the long anticipated Nagisa Oshima season curated by James Quandt of the Cinematheque Ontario that has been doing the rounds internationally over the past year. The season played the Cinematheque last October-December, and it has now finally reached London. The second is the Sexploitation season, which I’ll deal with in another post.
Nagisa Oshima is a director who’s rather fallen out of fashion in recent years, not only because much of his work, especially from the 1960s, has been very difficult to see, nor because Oshima’s own poor state of health has prevented him form being as vocal about his important status in the history of Japanese cinema as other directors from his generation. The main reason that I can see why Oshima doesn’t enjoy the same level of appreciation nowadays as some of his contemporaries like Shohei Imamura or Koji Wakamatsu is that his films are so much part of the political and intellectual discourse of the era that those coming to them cold are probably going to be left in the cold. Oshima came from the same “filmmaking as political process” philosophy as Jean-Luc Godard in France, which is not to say necessarily that he shared the same politics. But it does mean that at times his works can be pretty abstruse, unless you’ve done your background reading (and what better place to start perhaps, than my own Behind the Pink Curtain…) On the plus side however, it means that no two Oshima films are alike, in terms of form, tone or content, even though it is possible to detect threads running through his work.
I’m pretty excited however, because the season is a more-or-less complete retrospective, which means there’s quite a few titles showing that I’ve not even seen, namely The Catch, Shiro from Amakusa: The Christian Rebel and Three Resurrected Drunkards. I’ll also make a point of heading out to see my own personal favourite of his films, Boy, on the big screen. The season will of course feature his best-known work, In the Realm of the Senses, which the BFI are putting out on an extended run across the country, no doubt in preparation for an upcoming DVD/Blueray release.
Anyway, here’s the BFI press release, and more details can be found on the website:
Throughout September and October, BFI Southbank will celebrate the astounding films of Japan’s foremost modern master Nagisa Oshima, with a full retrospective of his films including an extended run of In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no Corrida, 1975); plus a rare opportunity to see a selection of television work from the ‘outlaw’ director who spearheaded Japan’s new wave.
One of the crucial differences that sets Nagisa Oshima apart from other great Japanese film-makers is that he has never accepted that he is defined merely by his own cultural identity. Constantly swimming against the tide, Oshima doesn’t accept consensus views on anything. Instead, he faces up to contradictions and insists on thinking his own way through them. This contrariness is reflected in his films as, in the 1960s and fired up by his earlier experiences as a student radical, he quickly established himself as a one-man ‘new wave’ in Japanese cinema.
Initially obsessed with the idea of revolution, many of the early films deal more or less directly with the failure of the Left, and ask why campaigns often miss their targets and why some movements tear themselves apart. Gradually, as his faith in revolution faded, he turned to other ways of attacking Japan’s body politic, focusing on the plight of the country’s most discriminated-against minority, Korean immigrants, and taking a more direct approach to the two issues which disrupt the cohesive surface of Japanese society: sex and crime.
This two-part season will include all of his feature films as well as some of his equally personal TV work. Part One kicks off with the four incendiary movies he made for Shochiku in 1959/60; A Town of Love and Hate (Ai to Kibo no Machi, 1959), Cruel Story of Youth (Taiyo no Hakaba, 1960), The Sun’s Burial (Taiyo no Hakaba, 1960) and Night and Fog in Japan (Nihon no Yoru to Kiri, 1960) before examining his achievement as an independent film-maker with work including Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Senjo no Merry Christmas, 1983) and climaxing with Gohatto (1999), the ‘gay samurai’ movie he willed himself into recovery to make after suffering a debilitating stroke. This retrospective includes many of the electrifying movies which helped shape our sense of what cinema is – and should be.